Police in Oregon have arrested 24-year-old Michael Cashmareck in connection with a massive wildfire that burned more than 150 acres of land and caused more than $50,000 in damages earlier this month. After extinguishing the day-long blaze, investigators discovered that the fire had been started by an explosion at an illegal butane hash oil lab ran by Cashmareck.

According to the Medford Mail Tribune, police say that Cashmareck was at a makeshift shack in East Evans, and was in the middle of removing residual solvents from a newly run batch of butane hash oil. Then, the unstable mixture sparked and exploded, immediately setting the surrounding area on fire. Commonly referred to as “purging,” the process of discarding leftover butane from a cannabis extract is often the most explosive step for amateur BHO manufacturers. 

“It involves removing the butane or other solvent from the finished product, generally through evaporation,” local Jackson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Julie Denney told the Mail Tribune. “The fumes can be very volatile, especially when a heat source is involved in the process.”

After the explosion on the afternoon of August 2nd, the fire spread almost immediately to 5 acres of surrounding area. In a matter of hours, firefighters say that the blaze spread to over 150 acres, prompting a Level 3 “Go” evacuation for residents living nearby.

With the aid of 15 aircrafts, hundreds of local firefighters were finally able to corral the wildfire after nearly 24 hours of constant burn. But not before one firefighter had to be airlifted out of the affected zone due to a severe injury.

Once the fire was put to rest and the investigation was completed, local police arrested Cashmareck and charged him with both first degree arson and manufacturing cannabis without a license. Producing cannabis extracts is legal in Oregon, but manufacturers must be permitted by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Cashmareck will also face charges for initiating a fire that “represented a threat of serious physical injury” and caused “economic loss greater than $50,000.”

Exploding extract laboratories have been a constant point of focus for prohibitionists, so much so that California has outlawed the sale of bulk amounts of butane to the general public. And while accidental explosions like the one Cashmareck is accused of causing still happen, updates in technique and technology have moved most extraction processes into controlled, safe environments.

But even without butane, cannabis can still spark wildfires. Just last month, a teenager in Hawaii was arrested after embers from his joint sparked a fire that burned 80 acres of brush. So next time you’re smoking outdoors or purging butane out of black market dabs, just remember the timeless words of Smokey the Bear and do your part to nip fire in the bud. 

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